PARIS (Reuters Life!) - French foie gras prices could swell this year due to a surge in maize prices but the increase should have little impact on sales and exports which continued to rise last year, producers said on Tuesday.
Foie gras makers association CIFOG said half of French households had bought foie gras in 2010 and that sales had risen by 3.3 percent while exports had gained 11 percent versus 2009.
But the association said a 20 percent increase in production costs in 2010, linked to a 54 percent rise in duck feed prices due to soaring grain prices, needed to be passed on in sale prices. Makers already negotiated a rise of 4-5 percent with retailers earlier this year.
"This is not enough. Grain prices remain high so we will likely have to ask for another increase of around 8-9 percent at the latest on July 1," CIFOG member Thierry Blandinieres said. "It's not over. Spring will be hot but it is necessary."
Other sectors such as meat, cooking oil or pasta, which also use large amounts of grains and oilseeds, prices of which surged to at least two-year highs last year, faced similar problems.
But foie gras producers played down the impact of the price rise on their consumers.
French households spend an average of 28 euros per year on the luxury dish, mainly during the year-end festive season.
"A rise of 10 percent would only make 2-3 euros. I think that's acceptable for consumers," said Jean Schwebel, head of the European foie gras federation.
The earthquake and nuclear accident in Japan, France's third-largest export market after Spain and Belgium, were also expected to have an impact on 2011 sales as the Japanese tended to stay at home, Schwebel said, noting that a drop of 20-25 percent in volume had already been observed since the event.
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Paul Casciato)